Episcopalians, still severely divided over homosexuality, are uniformly hopeful that their new presiding bishop, a well-known liberal, can keep the flagging denomination from further falling apart.

Many Episcopal leaders, meeting at the 10-day general convention July 15-25, sensed a conciliatory spirit, reflected in the election of Chicago Bishop Frank T. Griswold III as the church's new presiding bishop to succeed the retiring Edmond Browning.

Griswold, 59, is known for his abilities to bring together arguing factions. In what began as a five-candidate race, Griswold emerged victorious over 63-year-old southern Ohio Bishop Herbert Thompson, the favorite of conservatives, by a 110-to-96 vote on a third ballot. Focusing on unity, Griswold told the assembled that he stands at the "radical center" of the church.

Bishop James Stanton of Dallas, president of the American Anglican Council, a newly formed coalition of organizations supporting conservative, orthodox Christianity within the Episcopal Church, expressed hope after Griswold's election. "He did say he was really interested in healing and unifying the church," Stanton said.

"He needs our prayers and has mine," said Todd Wetzel, executive director of Episcopalians United, a conservative reform movement. "He intends to listen. I believe he'll be fair."

WOMEN'S ORDINATION MANDATED: Yet, the vote by the convention to void a "conscience clause," which allowed conservative bishops to opt out of ordaining women, is setting the stage for the next big fight between liberals and conservatives.

By amending the church's canons, the convention is mandating that all 113 dioceses of the denomination—including the four still prohibiting women's ordination—allow women to function ...

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